An article on my Oxford Agenda site called Speed cameras and statistical ignorance had as its twin targets the use of false statistics to justify restrictions on the roads, and the fact that highways officers are good examples of high-spending bureaucrats who plough on with wholly unnecessary road works while the rest of us tighten our belts.
Living in Oxfordshire, I do not have to look far for examples of both. I cite the panic-struck rush to put barriers down Oxford’s Eastern By Pass following an accident which was patently caused by the misjudgement and stupidity of a woman who was jailed for it. I might have added the enormous sums lashed out on the Cowley Road following a bus-cyclist accident which again had an obvious cause unconnected with the road layout. That one had also the use of retrospective statistics as to the percentage drop in accidents which, on examination, derived from a sample too small to mean anything and devoid of any analysis as to the origins of such accidents as there were – this being the point of the speed camera study which my article is about.
As to the pointless road works, Oxfordshire County Council has just finished fiddling around with a traffic island in St Giles, and is now busy altering the pavements in Summertown. Nothing about this work can be described as necessary, and in economic times like these, work must surely be necessary to warrant its expense.
We know why they are doing it, of course. The Department of Transport has dammed the largesse which Oxfordshire County Council had come to expect for the next round of pointless buggering around in the High Street. All those little pen-pushers have to have the semblance of a purpose, and can keep their in-trays full and their large teams of workmen in occupation by tampering with the pavements.
Meanwhile, Gordon Brown gapes at an empty Treasury, wishing he had something left in there to bribe the electorate with. Its all gone, Gordon, along with your reputation for prudence. A great deal of it has gone to keep local government officers off the streets by fiddling with the paving on them.